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Bishop Anthony Grabbe

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    2004.11.05 Independent: from The Independent & The Independent on Sunday Bishop Anthony Grabbe Exiled Russian Orthodox priest Published: 05 November 2005
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4, 2005
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      2004.11.05 Independent:
      from The Independent & The Independent on Sunday
      Bishop Anthony Grabbe

      Exiled Russian Orthodox priest

      Published: 05 November 2005

      Aleksei Georgievich Grabbe, priest: born Belgrade 22 June 1926;
      clothed a monk 1948, taking the name Anthony; ordained priest 1954;
      consecrated bishop 1996; died New York 12 September 2005.

      Few lives illustrate more fully the tortured fate of the Russian
      Orthodox in exile since the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917 than that
      of Bishop Anthony Grabbe. Born in exile and forced to migrate ever
      westwards to escape widening Communist power, he was committed to
      authentic Russian Orthodox spiritual traditions, but was to be
      overcome by the acrimonious infighting that constantly imperilled a
      church that existed at the ecclesiastical margins. When religious
      freedom returned to Russia - a land he never visited - he joined a
      new-founded jurisdiction that failed to gain the impetus he believed
      it might achieve.

      Grabbe was born in Serbian exile into a Russian noble family of
      Swedish origin which was also prominent in the Russian Orthodox
      Church. His father, Yuri Grabbe, was for many years right-hand man to
      the three earliest bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside
      Russia (Rocor). Taking the name Grigory, Yuri would later become a
      priest and bishop, a path his son would follow.

      The young Grabbe attended a Russian cadet school in the Serbian town
      of Bela Crkva until it was closed by the Nazis. After transferring to
      a Russian grammar school in Belgrade he was conscripted in 1943 into
      the Vlasov army, a pro-Nazi and anti-Bolshevik force made up of
      Russians and former Soviet citizens, where he served in Andrei
      Vlasov's bodyguard.

      As war ended he was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, but was rescued
      by his younger brother Dmitry before he could suffer deportation by
      the Western powers into Stalin's clutches and imprisonment or
      execution. The two made their way to Munich, then under American
      control, to where their father had transferred the Church's
      headquarters and archives to escape Tito's Communist takeover of
      Yugoslavia.

      Grabbe joined the newly founded St Job's monastery in Munich and it
      was there, in December 1948 - still only 22 - he was tonsured a monk,
      taking the name Anthony. Like so many exiled Russians, he emigrated
      to the United States, where Russian Orthodoxy was long established.
      From 1949 to 1954 he studied at the Holy Trinity seminary in
      Jordanville, a major centre for the émigré Russian church and was
      ordained a priest-monk at the end of his studies.

      Fr Anthony took on a variety of roles over the years, as secretary to
      Rocor's leader, Archbishop Vitaly Maksimenko, head of the Jordanville
      monastery chancellery and priest of the diocesan cathedral in New
      York. There he founded the St Sergius College, which he headed for
      nearly three decades.

      In 1968 he was appointed head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission
      in Jerusalem and the Orthodox Society of Palestine. For the next 15
      years he was in charge of the key properties in the Holy Land in the
      care of the mission, which was founded during the Tsarist era. A
      fierce opponent of the Soviet-controlled Moscow Patriarchate, he
      managed to disrupt Patriarch Pimen's visit to the Holy Land in 1972.

      Grabbe faced a bruising challenge trying to hold on to property in
      the face of encroachments by the Israeli and Soviet governments,
      often working in cohort. He even won a court case against the Israeli
      government which had illegally transferred ownership of the St Mary
      Magdalene convent on the Mount of Olives and other property to the
      Moscow Patriarchate. The Israeli state was forced to pay compensation
      of $7m.

      He became involved in the DNA analysis of the purported bones of the
      family of the last Tsar, executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. In 1982,
      the coffin of Grand Duchess Elisabeth - sister of Tsarina Alexandra,
      one of the victims - was opened in Jerusalem. Grabbe took a relic of
      part of her finger back to New York when he returned in 1983, later
      making it available to researchers, who determined that there was no
      DNA link.

      Soon after his return to the United States, Grabbe was forced out of
      his position as church secretary after rumours of financial scandal.
      After a disagreement with the Rocor leadership and failed attempts to
      reforge links with the Serbian Orthodox Church, he joined a Greek
      True Orthodox jurisdiction, which consecrated him bishop in New York
      in 1996.

      However, he soon retired and was scarcely active as a bishop. In 2001
      he joined the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, led from the
      Russian town of Suzdal by Bishop Valentin. It had broken away from
      Rocor after complaining of pro-Fascist sympathies among Rocor's
      followers and moves to rejoin the Moscow Patriarchate. Valentin's
      church recognised the validity of Anthony's consecration and at his
      death he was the oldest of the Church's bishops.

      Felix Corley
      © 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.
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